Food stamps caught up for now
The backlog that had caused long delays in delivery of food stamp benefits has been cleared, local social services officials say, but the social services staff now is working longer hours to try to keep up.
The backlog plagued the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps, since January, when the state began handling the benefits through a new computer system called NCFAST that was supposed to expedite the processing of various government benefits. As many as 2,000 Caldwell County residents had to wait weeks without benefit payments because of the delays.
On Sept. 23, the local Department of Social Services loaded a van with Caldwell County's 1,415 backlogged food stamp cases and took them to Raleigh for processing.
Medicaid benefits, which about 16,000 Caldwell residents are eligible for, started being processed through NCFAST in September, and on Monday social services workers began working longer hours to try to keep pace with the resulting workload.
"The federal shutdown did not put us further behind with processing food and nutrition applications," said Joyce Edwards, social services director. "However, with the addition of Medicaid cases now being entered into the NCFAST system we are beginning a required 45-hour work week for our 38 economic services staff until further notice."
Two temporary staff members were hired to work on Saturdays. Meanwhile, DHHS says the software glitches that had plagued NCFAST have been resolved.